Perhaps the single most important rule about children in vehicles is that children should be seated in the back seat at all times.
The proper seating information for infants, birth to one year or up to twenty-two pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the infant should face the rear
- Harness straps should be at or below the shoulders
- Infants should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags.
The proper seating information for toddlers, twenty-two to forty pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the child should face forward,
- Harness straps should be above shoulder level.
- Toddlers should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags.
The proper seating information for preschool children, forty to eighty pounds is:
- They need a belt positioning booster seat,
- They should face forward,
- Their booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts,
- The lap belt should fit low and tight.
There are child safety seat laws in every state plus the District of Columbia. Police and other law enforcement officers are allowed to issue a citation when they see a violation of these laws. There are some 18 states that have gaps in their child passenger restraint laws; in these states, some children are not covered by either a child safety seat law or a safety belt law. Additionally, in states where children are protected under the safety belt law as opposed to specific child safety seat laws, police may enforce the law only if a driver violates an additional law.
Safety belt laws do protect children. For example, the NHTSA found that when Louisiana upgraded its safety belt law from secondary to standard enforcement, compliance with child restraint rules rose from 45 percent to 82 percent without any other change in the state’s child passenger safety law.